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RCP Obama vs. RomneyTie; 7-day change: Obama -1.1%.

RCP Obama approval47.2%; 7-day change: -1.1%.

Intrade percent chance of Obama win58.3%; 7-day change: +0.8%.

Top story: Democrats gear up for Charlotte convention

How Obama will make his case. "With Republicans trying to fan disappointment with President Barack Obama's leadership, Democrats begin the final run to the election with a convention beginning here Tuesday that aims to convince economically struggling voters the president has a workable plan for a turnaround. The Democratic Party's goals for the three-day gathering include widening its advantages among female and Hispanic voters while limiting Mr. Obama's losses among white, working-class ones. At the same time, its overarching ambition is to rebut Mr. Obama's opponent, Mitt Romney, who used last week's Republican National Convention to try to pry away the president's 2008 voters by casting him as a nice guy who isn't up to the challenge...A senior Obama campaign official said the president may offer one or two new policy proposals in his speech Thursday, when he accepts the nomination for re-election, but that he would spend more time arguing that his existing ideas on health care, education and deficit-reduction amount to 'a clear, concrete and achievable plan' for a second term." Laura Meckler in The Wall Street Journal.

@jodikantor: Re competition, remember what Obama said after his 04 speech, per David Mendell? "I'm Lebron, baby. I can play on this level. I got game."

READ: The 2012 Democratic Party platform.

@mattyglesias: The 2012 Democratic platform seems to be a good deal longer than its GOP counterpart.

'Are you better off than you were four years ago?' takes center stage in campaign and in convention. "A day after fumbling a predictable and straightforward question posed by Mitt Romney last week -- are Americans better off than they were four years ago -- the Obama campaign provided a response on Monday that it said would be hammered home during the Democratic convention here this week: 'Absolutely.'...Speaking in Detroit on Monday, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said during a union rally, 'You want to know whether we’re better off?” He answered: “I’ve got a little bumper sticker for you: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.'" Jim Rutenberg in The New York Times.

But what does the question actually mean? "The famous question that Ronald Reagan put to voters in the waning days of the 1980 election was an implicit theme of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. — and it has received further play since then on the Sunday morning talk shows and on the campaign trail. It’s a smart question for Mitt Romney’s campaign to be asking, and one that President Obama needs to develop a better answer to. Still, it’s probably best not to take the question literally. If voters did, Mr. Reagan might never have been elected." Nate Silver in The New York Times.

Jodi Kantor looks at the President's competitive side: "Four years ago, Barack Obama seemed as if he might be a deliberate professor of a leader, maybe with a touch of Hawaiian mellowness. He has also turned out to be a voraciously competitive perfectionist. Aides and friends say so in interviews, but Mr. Obama’s own words of praise and derision say it best: he is a perpetually aspiring overachiever, often grading himself and others with report-card terms like 'outstanding' or 'remedial course' (as in: Republicans need one). As he faces off with Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, Mr. Obama’s will to win -- and fear of losing -- is in overdrive."

2012 convention will be different from '08. "Democrats are arriving here to nominate President Obama for a second term in an atmosphere far removed from the Denver convention in 2008, driven by a different kind of urgency and with new questions about their party’s direction. Their unity at this point is defined less by faith in Mr. Obama or a robust vision for what the party should stand for than by the prospect that Republicans could control the White House and Congress next year and enact a conservative agenda that would unravel much of what Democrats have stood for since Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society...In many ways the Democratic Party has reverted to form -- an unruly conglomeration of sometimes competing interests, united in a belief that government has a crucial role to play in the economy and social justice, but often divided by priorities, means and values." Adam Nagourney in The New York Times.

@mattyglesias: Weirdest DNC gubernatorial omission is that North Carolina Governor Bev Purdue isn't on the schedule.

Photos: The Democratic convention hall and scenes on the ground in Charlotte.

Explainer: What you need to know about Charlotte, NC.

@BobCusack: Cab driver in Charlotte says city can handle convention: "If we can handle 200,000 people for NASCAR, we can handle this."

Meet Julian Castro, the San Antonio mayor who will be giving the Democrats' keynote. "When he steps behind the podium as the first Hispanic to deliver a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro will present himself as an embodiment of the American dream, part of a compelling family narrative that begins with an orphaned girl from Mexico. That girl was his grandmother, Victoria Castro, who came to the United States in the early 20th century, taught herself to read and write and made a living as a cook and babysitter." Dave Montgomery in Politico.

Romney's convention bounce was mixed at best. "The consensus of evidence so far points toward Mitt Romney having received a small bounce in the polls of perhaps two or three percentage points from the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla. Oddly enough, however, you can’t really find a poll that seems to reflect a 2- or 3-point bounce exactly. Instead, there have been some polls where Mr. Romney’s bounce has been a bit larger than that, and others where there is little sign of a bounce at all." Nate Silver in The New York Times.

Romney is polling above Obama in North Carolina. "Mitt Romney has a slim edge in North Carolina over President Obama, according to a new poll of likely voters in the state...The Democratic Party kicks off its nominating convention on Tuesday in Charlotte. The selection of convention cities is usually strategic, but it’s an open question whether this one can pave the way for a repeat victory in North Carolina. Obama won the state by the slimmest of margins in 2008" Peyton Craighill in The Washington Post.

@fivethirtyeight: Heuristic: if a place has sidewalks, it votes Democratic. Otherwise, it votes Republican.

An Obama-Clinton alliance will be on obvious display in Charlotte. "On Wednesday night here, Clinton will be tasked with a mission that has largely frustrated President Obama: cut through the political clutter and clarify the choice in November...There is nothing formulaic about Clinton’s presence at the Democratic National Convention this year. He is not just another old presidential war horse being trotted out for nostalgia or a staged show of unity. When Obama called in late July to say he would be grateful if his Democratic predecessor would give the speech placing his name in nomination, something that no former commander in chief has done before, it was an acknowledgment of how much the sitting president needs the former president. And Clinton, who loves to be needed as much as he needs to be loved, responded with an enthusiasm and diligence that served as yet another signal to people close to both men that an old wound has for the most part been healed." David Maraniss in The Washington Post.

Ryan Lizza writes on the troubled relationship between the two Democratic presidents, former and current:"Barack Obama and Bill Clinton have never been close. Some of their advisers concede that the two men don’t really like each other...The reconciliation began in earnest late last summer[, when]...Obama phoned Clinton and invited him out for a round. Several Clinton associates say that this was the moment they realized that Obama truly wanted to win in 2012. Why else would he spend hours on a golf course being lectured by Clinton?...For Obama, the reconciliation could help him win in November. It’s also an ideological turnaround: Obama, who rose to the Oval Office in part by pitching himself as the antidote to Clintonism, is now presenting himself as its heir apparent. It’s a shrewd, even Clintonian, tactical maneuver."

Look out! Bad weather may interfere with the DNC also. "Mother Nature is apparently bipartisan in her wrath. Just a week after upending the carefully planned schedule at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., with a hurricane, she appears to have set her sights on the gathering of Democrats here, where President Obama is set to accept the nomination in an open-air stadium on Thursday — with no umbrellas allowed. As delegates began arriving Monday evening, the skies began darkening, with thunderstorms bringing the possibility of flooding to the Charlotte area. Weather forecasts suggested that storms might extend through Thursday night." Michael D. Shear in The New York Times.

@DouthatNYT: Weather in Charlotte is working hard to make me nostalgic for Tampa. But could be good for Obama: He's better off speaking inside.

SEIB: Obama's awkward relationship with his party comes into focus. "When Barack Obama arrives here this week to be renominated for president, he will be surrounded by a giant entourage, fawned over by donors and admirers, cheered on by a stadium full of fans. He also will be, in another sense, a man alone in his quest for re-election...Mr. Obama will be arriving at a Democratic convention, but he has never really been a creature of his party...Having taken the nomination as an outsider, Mr. Obama proceeded to win the election by creating his own, personal coalition...[T]hat made his 2008 victory more a personal than a party achievement...The president's goal here in Charlotte will be to recharge that 2008 machinery. He needs to energize young and minority voters and reassure wavering middle- and upper-middle-class voters --especially women -- that they made the right choice. Those are the pillars of Mr. Obama's coalition—and it may be that only he can hold it together." Gerald F. Seib in The Wall Street Journal.

WILKINSON: Make Biden the star. "If I were running this week’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, I’d make it all about Joe. Following a week in which the Republicans reached new heights of inauthenticity, culminating in an actor’s conversation with a man who wasn’t there, Vice President Joe Biden offers the ultimate counterpoint. There is nothing Biden can do or say to obscure his regular-Joe-ness. Among the quartet at the top of the two party's tickets, he’s the only working-class hero of the bunch...Biden, on the other hand, comes across like a guy whose house is underwater." Francis Wilkinson in Bloomberg.

CARLSON AND PONNURU: A conversation in Charlotte. "We’ll see the flip side of some of the problems the Republicans had last week. Republicans have few minorities. You could look on stage and see all they had. I’m all for minority representation, but Democrats should find some way to bring some white working men back into the fold. According to polls, they’d rather have root canal than vote for a Democrat...I expect we’ll hear more about Osama bin Laden this week, too. Democrats for once have an advantage on national security, and they would be foolish not to press their advantage...[S]ocial issues are the fault line between the Republican and Democratic coalitions. Maybe that’s why the parties are increasingly moralistic and uncompromising on every other issue." Margaret Carlson and Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg.

RACHMAN: Obama will build a case for government. "The Democrats’ defence is that the president was merely talking about the need for government to provide vital services, such as infrastructure...[H]He will have to be careful not to tread on the American dream. The idea of the 'land of opportunity,' where an individual is free to make his own way, remains inspiring – far more inspiring to most Americans than the notion of a social safety net. The case he must make is that government is the friend of the American dream, not its enemy." Gideon Rachman in The Financial Times.

Top op-eds

KRUGMAN: Republicans are not brave except in their mendacity. "Remember Rosie Ruiz? In 1980 she was the first woman to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon — except it turned out that she hadn’t actually run most of the race, that she sneaked onto the course around a mile from the end. Ever since, she has symbolized a particular kind of fraud, in which people claim credit for achieving things they have not, in fact, achieved. And these days Paul Ryan is the Rosie Ruiz of American politics...For Mr. Ryan, as you may recall, has positioned himself as an icon of truth-telling and fiscal responsibility, while offering policy proposals that are neither honest nor responsible...So Mr. Ryan basically told the budget office to assume that his plan would slash the deficit, then claimed the resulting report as vindication of his deficit-slashing claims. Sorry, but that’s the policy equivalent of sneaking into a marathon near the finish line, then claiming victory." Paul Krugman in The New York Times.

LAZEAR: Unemployment is cyclical, not structural. "The unemployment rate has exceeded 8% for more than three years. This has led some commentators and policy makers to speculate that there has been a fundamental change in the labor market...Research I've done with James Spletzer of the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the problems in the labor market are not structural. They reflect slow economic growth, and the cure is a decent recovery...The evidence suggests that to reduce unemployment, all we need to do is grow the economy. Unfortunately, current policies aren't doing that. The problems in the economy are not structural and this is not a jobless recovery. A more accurate view is that it is not a recovery at all." Edward Lazear in The Wall Street Journal.

@Goldfarb: Republicans (Hubbard, Lazear), Democrats (Obama team) and Bernanke all agree -- unemployment problem is cyclical, not structural.

STIGLITZ: Memo to Mitt -- You haven't paid your fair share. "Mitt Romney’s income taxes have become a major issue in the American presidential campaign. Is this just petty politics, or does it really matter? In fact, it does matter – and not just for Americans. A major theme of the underlying political debate in the United States is the role of the state and the need for collective action...Romney may not be a tax evader; only a thorough investigation by the US Internal Revenue Service could reach that conclusion. But, given that the top US marginal income-tax rate is 35%, he certainly is a tax avoider on a grand scale. And, of course, the problem is not just Romney; writ large, his level of tax avoidance makes it difficult to finance the public goods without which a modern economy cannot flourish. But, even more important, tax avoidance on Romney’s scale undermines belief in the system’s fundamental fairness, and thus weakens the bonds that hold a society together." Joseph E. Stiglitz in Project Syndicate.

SUNSTEIN: Breaking the information cocoon. "Most Democrats and most Republicans are not extremists...But here is the problem. When we listen mostly to people who already agree with us, our pre-existing convictions get fortified, and we start to think that those who disagree with us are evil, dumb or duped. Is it any wonder that our politics are highly polarized, so much so that it sometimes seems as if Democrats and Republicans don’t merely disagree but live in unfathomably different universes?...A few years ago, I participated in some experiments designed to shed light on how people’s political beliefs are formed...Our findings were simple. On all three issues, both liberal and conservative groups became more unified and more extreme after talking to one another. Not only in their public verdicts but also in their private, anonymous statements of views...What is more striking, and more revealing about our current problems, is that after liberals spoke only with liberals, and conservatives only with conservatives, the divisions between the two groups grew dramatically." Cass Sunstein in Bloomberg.

PONNURU: A second Obama term is likely to be four years of gridlock. " If Obama wins re-election, the Republican Party will react by moving right, not left. It will become less likely to compromise with Obama, not more...The kind of campaign Obama is running militates against his credibly claiming a mandate after getting re-elected...The Republicans aren’t going to change. Judging from the interview, neither will the president...The choice before [Americans] is looking more and more like one between Romney and a unified Republican government, or Obama and four more years that look a lot like the last two." Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg.

Top long reads

John Heilemann profiles Vice President Joe Biden:"Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. has been in Washington for nearly 40 years, the first 36 as a United States senator from Delaware, the past three-plus as understudy to Barack Hussein Obama. (It should be said: Hussein and Robinette--what a country!) With a resume like that, Biden is well aware that his assessment of the 'chains' brouhaha could be readily applied to any vice-presidential candidacy in its totality: that, for incumbents and challengers alike, a running mate’s gig is severely limited in scope, tightly circumscribed in duties, and exerts an influence on the electoral outcome ranging from marginal to de minimis."

@AnnieLowrey: Joe Biden at a diner today, chatting with Greek folks: "I'm Joe Bidenopoulous!" He also got some rice pudding.

Sauce interlude: An alternate map of the Carolinas, by regional BBQ flavoring.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.

Still to come: is Europe seeing the light or plunging deeper into nightmare; Health and Human Services Department bans transgender discrimination in health insurance; what is the future for Fannie and Freddie?; wave energy plan ready for launch in Oregon; and Burning Man.


Economic gloom creeping in Asian and Europe. "Manufacturing downturns gripped Asia and the euro zone in August, surveys of purchasing executives showed, in the latest sign of weakness in the global economy. New orders dwindled in the euro zone, suggesting the outlook for the 17-nation economy remains poor, while activity in China's manufacturing sector—the engine for much of Asia's economy—shrank at the fastest pace since the depth of the global financial crisis." Arran Scott and Alex Brittain in The Wall Street Journal.

The chairman of the European Central Bank is hinting at bond purchases. "The president of the European Central Bank dropped more hints about how the bank could support struggling countries, suggesting the bank was free to buy government bonds maturing in three years or less. The comments by Mario Draghi in a closed hearing at the European Parliament on Monday came ahead of the ECB's monthly policy meeting Thursday...Mr. Draghi indicated on Monday that the ECB would be open to buying bonds with a maturity of two to three years, stressing that such purchases wouldn't break European Union treaties, according to several lawmakers present at the hearing...Mr. Draghi added that purchases of longer-dated debt would constitute monetary financing of governments and thus break EU treaties, a person present at the meeting said." Frances Robinson and Gabrielle Steinhauser in The Wall Street Journal.

The 'Grexit' is an ever more real possibility. "Even as Greece desperately tries to avoid defaulting on its debt, American companies are preparing for what was once unthinkable: that Greece could soon be forced to leave the euro zone. Bank of America Merrill Lynch has looked into filling trucks with cash and sending them over the Greek border so clients can continue to pay local employees and suppliers in the event money is unavailable. Ford has configured its computer systems so they will be able to immediately handle a new Greek currency...[And JP Morgan Chase] has already created new accounts for a handful of American giants that are reserved for a new drachma in Greece or whatever currency might succeed the euro in other countries." Nelson D. Schwartz in The New York Times.

@jimtankersley: Friendly reminder: There's a very good chance Europe goes down the tubes over the next month, and none of this matters for the election.

Public corporations are dying out. "Public corporations that ordinary people can invest in and get rich from represent one of the great selling points of American capitalism...Yet public corporations, which rose to dominance in the United States economy in the second half of the 20th century, are now waning in significance...[T]he number of public corporations in the United States in 2009 was only half what it was in 1997...Public corporations have also become less public...The incentives to 'go public' are smaller than they once were, because the rise of private equity firms and hedge funds has made it easier to raise money outside the stock market. Private companies are less subject to government regulation and oversight." Nancy Folbre in The New York Times.

Yes, this would happen at Burning Man interlude: People seem to be walking in a giant hamster wheel.

Health Care

HHS bans transgender discrimination under Affordable Care Act health insurance regulation. "In a recent letter hailed by advocates in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, the Department of Health and Human Services clarified that provisions in the Affordable Care Act prohibiting sex discrimination in health insurance apply to transgender people...The HHS letter, issued by the department's Office of Civil Rights, adds to recent court decisions and a ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April that the Civil Rights Act's prohibition against sex discrimination applies to transgender people. The letter says the office of civil rights is now accepting and investigating complaints of sex discrimination under the health care law. If discrimination is found and an organization doesn't act voluntarily to resolve the problem, the office may move to halt federal financial assistance, among other actions. The letter does not mean that insurers have to cover surgery related to gender transition." Michelle Andres in Kaiser Health News.

Domestic Policy

What is the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? "The man with the keys to the White House on Nov. 7 will face a major piece of unfinished business from the financial crisis: What to do with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government-backed providers of money for home mortgages?...Four years ago almost to the day, the Bush administration seized control of the two companies amid staggering losses on millions of mortgages they owned or guaranteed. So far, the Treasury has pumped about $142 billion into Fannie and Freddie to prop them up...There already is a consensus among Democrats and Republicans that Fannie and Freddie represent a failed experiment in state-sponsored mortgage lending...Deciding what sort of housing-finance system should replace the one now dominated by Fannie and Freddie is an arduous task. The basic question: Should the U.S. return to a free market in home loans?" James R. Hagerty in The Wall Street Journal.

Hello darkness my old friend interlude: Simon and Garfunkel perform "The Sound of Silence".


The nation's first commercial grid-connected wave energy generator is getting ready to make some waves. "[T]he first commercially licensed grid-connected wave-energy device in the nation, designed by a New Jersey company, Ocean Power Technologies, is in its final weeks of testing before a planned launch in October. The federal permit for up to 10 generators came last month, enough, the company says, to power about 1,000 homes. When engineers are satisfied that everything is ready, a barge will carry the 260-ton pioneer to its anchoring spot about two and a half miles offshore near the city of Reedsport, on the central coast...The project’s leader, Paul Klarin, said wave technology is so new, compared to, say, wind energy, that the designs are like a curiosity shop — all over the place in creative thinking about how to get the energy contained in a wave into a wire in a way that is cost-effective and efficient...Energy development groups around the world are closely watching what happens here, because success or failure with the first United States commercial license could affect the flow of private investment by bigger companies that have mostly stayed on the shore while smaller entrepreneurs struggled in the surf. Ocean Power Technologies also will be seeking money to build more generators." Kirk Johnson in The New York Times.

Duke Energy CEO vouches for Obama. "Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, a major backer of the Democratic National Convention about to open here, said Monday that the country is better off now than it was four years ago when it comes to energy...'Well, from an energy-sector [standpoint], we're better off today than we were four years ago. Think about it. President Obama pursued an all-of-the-above strategy. Are we better off in terms of efficiency? We see per-home usage of electricity declining. That's a good thing..The second thing is we [have had] two license[s] for nuclear plants issued. We have abundant supply of natural gas at low prices. And so as you look at the various ways to generate electricity in this country, we're better off today than we were four years ago.'" Ben German in The Hill.

Gulf oil industry goes back online after Isaac. "U.S. Gulf Coast oil and gas companies on Thursday assessed damage from Hurricane Isaac and began to restaff evacuated refineries and offshore platforms as the now-weakened storm winds its way through central Louisiana...Analysts with Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. said energy markets aren't expecting 'lasting disruptions'...So far, the markets are being mostly reassured." Ben Lefebvre and Alison Slider in The Wall Street Journal.

The House GOP is pressing for reforms of the offshore permitting process. "House Republicans aren’t ready to lavish praise on the Obama administration despite approval of the launch of Shell’s long-planned Arctic oil exploration off Alaska’s northern coast...Republicans are touting legislation that would speed up another aspect of Arctic drilling projects: Environmental Protection Agency air pollution permits." Ben German in The Hill.

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